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Monday, April 13, 2015

Bad optics

For Lonnie Randolph Jr, president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Scott’s fate can be attributed to five words: “We’ve never left the past.” 
He compares the killing to that of George Stinney, the 14-year-old executed in South Carolina in 1944 during the Jim Crow era. The teenager was arrested, tried, convicted and executed within 81 days in a small town north of Charleston for the murder of two white girls. It was long argued that his confession had been forced and last year a judge eventually overturned the conviction. But it is a case that still haunts the state. 
“It’s a manifestation of that attitude. A white man shot him in the back because he thought, ‘I’m not going to let him get away and the law will protect me’ because the laws have protected him in the past. They are similar in that a disrespect for human life is pervasive,” said Randolph.He says the South Carolina Department of Corrections imprisons more than 13,000 black men, who account for 65% of the prison population. 
Yet African Americans make up only 28% of the state’s entire population. He notes that just one of the state’s seven congressmen is black. He argues that – as the country last week remembered the 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, marking the end of the civil war – South Carolina remains one of only two states to fly the Confederate flag over its statehouse. “We still carry that baggage from 1865 today,” says Randolph. “That flag of division, the flag of hate, the flag of white supremacy is flying on our statehouse grounds.” 

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